Viewed as a neighborhood eccentric partly because of her many cats, Mrs. Sarafiny fascinates Anna, who can't have a pet bemuse of her older sister's allergies. After Anna and her friend Bethie embark on a piece of feline rescue work, they place a stray with the ""cat lady"" and get better acquainted with her. During subsequent visits, the children witness Mrs. Sarafiny's deteriorating mental condition and worry about her meals (she eats cat food)--so much so that they take cans from home and spend their own money shopping for her. After the elderly woman puts a TV set in the oven (she says she's ""making a TV dinner""), Anna and Bethie know they can't cope alone. Parents and other adults take charge; Mrs. Sarafiny, diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, is soon on the mend. How the seemingly impoverished Mrs. Sarafiny will pay for the ongoing care prescribed for her is never made clear. But that's only one problem in a story flawed by the effort to keep emotions and perspectives child-size; it seems labored and occasionally borders on precious. Few children will sit still for it.